Success is a Mindset

Women’s Leadership Summit keynote speaker Merary Simeon on gaining confidence and paying it forward

It’s finally here. In just four short days, we’ll be saying, “Welcome to the 2021 Women’s Leadership Summit.” In the weeks leading up, we’ve been sharing the stories of some of the inspiring women (and men!) who will be sharing their wisdom with us on Friday.

You’ve heard from Jesse Lovejoy, Amy Bream, Katie Goyette and Linda Hope. Now it’s time you get to know Merary Simeon, a former Play Like a Girl board member, a human resources executive at PepsiCo and one of the nicest, most encouraging, most courageous women we’ve ever met.

Merary will be delivering the keynote address on Friday, and from what she’s told us, we better have the Rocky theme song queued up. “I want women to recognize that they already have everything they need to succeed,” she says. “I want them to understand that they own their own narrative. I want them to know they were made to change the game!” 

In addition to speaking, she also is lending her time and talents to our Executive Auction, which gives lucky winning bidders one-on-one mentoring sessions with executives, athletes and other leaders.

We caught up with Merary last week to learn more about her professional journey and the central role mentorship has played in her life. Catch the highlights from our conversation below and then get your ticket for the Women’s Leadership Summit.

On working at PepsiCo

While the last year has been a great awakening for many companies that previously placed little value on diversity and inclusion, Merary says PepsiCo has been focused on these issues for a while. In 1947, the company created its first Black sales team. In the 50s PepsiCo named the first woman to its board of directors. In 2006, an Indian-American woman, Indra Nooyi, became only the fifth CEO in the company’s history. Today, women represent just over 40% of the company’s managerial global workforce, and the goal is to hit 50% by 2025.

“We believe that we thrive because of our diversity,” Merary explains. “We still have work to do, but I’m confident in the work this company [PepsiCo] continues to do to empower every woman.”

One of those ways is through a pair of employee resources groups—one for all women and another specifically for women of color. In addition to being a community where women (and allies!) can connect, learn and celebrate together, it’s also a way to influence workplace policies and the company’s impact in the community. In celebration of Women’s History Month, these groups chose to highlight Play Like a Girl, and for every $25 employee donation, the company will match it. (Thanks, ladies!)

If you’re at a company that offers ERGs, Merary encourages you to get involved—even if you don’t identify with that community group. If your company doesn’t offer them (many small- and mid-sized workplaces don’t), she encourages you to seek out this type of community in other ways. “There are many community organizations that have women networking opportunities,” she says. “Play Like a Girl’s Women’s Leadership Summit is a great example.”

On finding her confidence

In addition to being an executive at PepsiCo, Merary is also a sought-after public speaker and leads transformational workshops for women. But she didn’t come by these talents easily. While taking college classes, this Puerto Rican native also was learning English. She spent some of her early career suffering from imposter syndrome—the belief that she lacked what it took to succeed while feeling undeserving of the praises she received.

“It’s not easy to stop listening to the negative voices,” she says. “If I would have believed some of the things people said to me about where I would be today, I would not be here today.”

She credits mentors with helping her beat the feelings of inadequacy. My mentors played a powerful role in helping me see in myself what I couldn’t see by myself. Now I know you can’t wait for permission to invest in yourself. You can’t allow anyone to bully you with their limited imagination.”

On being a mentor

Even early in her career, Merary found ways to pay it forward. She started by meeting with students at her former high school. “English was a second language for them,” she says. “I didn’t know English that well at the time and I was going to college. They saw me trying. We all have the opportunity to empower others, no matter our career level. You do not need a title to inspire.”

Despite taking on more responsibilities at PepsiCo, Merary still teaches a monthly leadership course at a local church to empower undereducated women to become entrepreneurs.

And of course, Merary is looking forward to meeting her mentee from the Executive Auction.

“I’ve never been part of an event like this and I’m really looking forward to it,” she says. “I can’t wait to meet my mentee and help show her how capable she is of realizing her full potential.”

Office Hours with Sarah Hays Coomer

Sarah Hays Coomer

Author and Health Coach



"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." - Annie Dilliard

Sarah Hays Coomer is a Mayo Clinic certified health coach and author of 3 books—The Habit Trip, Physical Disobedience, and Lightness of Body and Mind. She spends her days celebrating the power of our bodies and minds to help us show up for what matters.


5 Things She Can’t Live Without

Pets: I have had animals my whole life, both dogs and cats. They have given me so much love and comfort. When I'm super stressed out, I go to the Humane Society to hang out with the stray animals and get some extra snuggles.
Walking: If I am stuck on a problem or need to be creative or clear my head, I always head out for a walk.
Sleep: I love to sleep! Sleep supports every other healthy decision I make. If I rest well, I can show up better for what matters to me.
Kindness: Human beings thrive when they are kind to each other and to themselves. I try to remember that when people are being mean, they are usually insecure or suffering in some way. I respond with kindness every chance I get, and I try to remember to offer that same generosity to myself when I start feeling critical of my body or my work.
Girlfriends: My girlfriends are my family. In the past, when I have moved to a new town or a new school, it might have taken a while to find my friends, but once I find women who make me feel like myself, I know I'm home.

US-Mexico-Nicaragua International Sports Programming Initiative

The US-Mexico-Nicaragua International Sports Programming Initiative, organized by WorldChicago and the Women Win Foundation, is a US Department of State-sponsored exchange program that aims to promote sports as a tool for development, particularly in women's empowerment, gender equality, and youth leadership.

The program is currently looking to enroll aspiring and non-elite coaches and administrators of Girls Sports (aged 20 and over) from the United States in a virtual exchange, scheduled to run from November 6 to December 18, 2020, and a tentative in-person exchange in Chicago, scheduled to occur in May 2021.

American participants will benefit from the following perks:

  • FREE access to a series of expert-led workshops on coaching and sport administration for social change from November 6 - December 18, 2020.
  • Double-Goal Coaching Certification from the Positive Coaching Alliance at ZERO cost.
  • Meaningful cultural and professional exchanges with athletic professionals from Mexico and Nicaragua.
  • Recognition as program alumni of the US Department of State and exclusive access to alumni support resources.

If you are interested in promoting equal opportunity in sports and expanding your professional network in Latin America, apply today at:

Questions? Contact Brian Peckrill at [email protected] or Thi Nguyen at [email protected].

Play Like a Girl LIVE: A Virtual Experience

A free, interactive, four-week virtual experience inspired by our times

Play Like a Girl will host a new interactive, weekly, 60-minute virtual event series on consecutive Thursdays from September 3 to September 24 starting at 6pm ET/5pm CT. The series will showcase prominent women in diverse fields addressing topics like confidence, leadership, social justice and more—all while networking, mentoring and having a little fun! 

"We spent early 2020 telling the stories of confident girls and women who empower each other to realize their limitless potential. It was so inspiring. Then the pandemic hit and shook everything," said Play Like a Girl CEO Dr. Kim. "Now, it's more important than ever to be and stay inspired, empowered and connected—especially, while social distancing. Together, we will reset, refocus and resolve to stay the course in these challenging times."

As we gear up for International Day of the Girl on October 11, we’re inviting women across the country to share empowering stories with middle school girls about the importance of staying focused, no matter what. Throughout the four weeks, Dr. Kim will share lessons that have carried her through the pandemic and help the audience find ways to stay in the game through the last quarter of the year. 

The weekly event will also feature group mentoring exercises, at-home self-care practices, and Play Like a Girl board members and special guests live in conversation with women thought leaders at the top of their game who are showing us what it means to live inspired, empowered, more connected lives.

The weekly series will explore the following themes:

Thursday, September 3: Inspire

Kate T. Parker, photographer and best-selling author of Play Like a Girl: Life Lessons from the Soccer Field, kicks off the series celebrating the power of team and what it means to play like a girl.

Thursday, September 10: Empower

IF/THEN Ambassadors Dr. Kiki Jenkins, Dr. Monica RhoSarah Wilson show us how sport can help strengthen girls’ leadership skills and prepare them for a thriving career in male-dominated STEM fields.

Thursday, September 17: Connect

Olympic soccer superstar and mom of two girls Christie Pearce Rampone shares practical, real world advice from her book Be All In: Raising Kids for Success in Sports and Life on how mothers can build relationships with their daughters that will set girls up for lifelong success.

Thursday, September 24: Impact

Looking for ways you can show up for black and brown girls—in ways that matter now? Former athlete and youth basketball coach Portia Archer shares a range of lessons from the basketball court to the boardroom as Chief Operating Officer of the NBA G League. 

To join the free virtual experience, visit to register. The series will be hosted as a Zoom Video Webinar and live streamed on Play Like a Girl’s Facebook and YouTube channels. The four sessions will remain available for on-demand viewing across all platforms.

GIVEAWAY ANYONE?! ???? Follow us on Instagram and tag your tribe of gals (and guys) who will be watching with you. We’ve got free copies of Kate’s new book for a few lucky pairs, so hop on it! 

Media interested in additional information or with any press inquiries can call (615) 601-1864.


Unexpected Power of Gratitude

Show Appreciation. 

Nothing pays dividends like appreciating those around you. By paying it forward everyday, you'll make a meaningful difference in the lives of others as well as your own.

Gratitude goes a long way. The practice of gratitude and appreciation is an important Play Like a Girl Principle. We teach girls in our programs this practice because we know gratitude to be one of the most important factors in fostering a healthy mindset and maintaining overall happiness.

healthy mindset is absolutely critical to one's ability to do extraordinary things on the field, in the classroom, and in life. Taking just 10 minutes a day to reflect and practice gratitude can add so much more to your life. Research indicates that the practice of gratitude can change you and your brain. It can be as easy as writing down a few things for which you are thankful or thanking someone in your life.

Below are just a few of the benefits gained from practicing this simple principle daily: 

Lower Stress Levels 

When you practice gratitude, you unshackle your mind from toxic emotions and negative thoughts and everything that accompanies them. By shifting your focus to more positive thoughts, you allow your mind to rest and calm itself, which results in lower stress levels and overall wellness. 

Better Sleep 

When your stress levels are high, the body prepares for danger by elevating your heart rate, respiratory rates, and awareness. It can be pretty difficult to sleep when your body anticipates danger of any kind. Therefore, when you lower your stress levels by practicing gratitude, you also improve your sleep.  

Better Immune Function

High levels of stress also weaken your immune function and makes it harder for your body to fight off illness. Your immune system can be strengthen by practicing gratitude, thereby reducing your risk of illness.  

Boosted Mood

Numerous studies demonstrate the power of gratitude to increase overall happiness. When you show thanks to the people and things around you, the brain is primed to make you feel better about yourself. Furthermore, the decreased stress levels that it brings elevate mood even further. There is no better mood booster than showing some gratitude. 

Increased Motivation

When you feel happier and more thankful for what you have, you also feel higher levels of confidence and self-efficacy. Consequently, the desire to set goals and work towards them only increases as well.

Higher Energy Levels

With increased happiness and decreased stress comes better sleep and more energy. The more rest you get at night combined with higher mood levels during the day allow you more energy and productivity. 

Incorporating gratitude into your life is easy—and fun. Plus, the benefits are many.

Get started today by simply keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which you’re thankful—and watch your personal life satisfaction, health and well-being all significantly improve. 

Comment below to let us know how you're feeling.

Office Hours with Celeste Bell

Celeste Bell

VP, Talent Acquisition

Publicis Media


“Your life is your message to the world, make sure it's inspiring.“

A country girl in the big city, Celeste Bell, is an HR professional who is passionate about life and dedicated to bringing out the very best in others.


5 Things She Can’t Live Without

Faith: My faith in God allows me to believe that anything and everything is possible. It allows me to dream big, crazy dreams.

Family: My parents are my favorite humans. They're my best friends and my heroes. I am who I am because of them.

Dogs: Dogs are furry happiness. My dog is my other best friend. He's a protector but he's also goofy and will unapologetically poot in your face.

Running: Running is mental healthcare for me. I started running in college to avoid the freshman 15. Now, I run to stay sane. It works most days.

Travel: Ralph Waldo Emerson said "a mind once stretched, never returns to its original dimensions." Travel does this for me. It allows me to learn about and embrace other cultures.

7 Steps to Healthy Habits

Play Like a Girl pushes girls to dream big in pursuit of the limitless possibilities that lie ahead of them. However, even with the best goal structures and support systems in place, it can be difficult for girls to consistently make progress towards those goals. During adolescence, the brain is still developing the ability to consider long-term consequences and daily decision-making. This makes it especially important that girls take the time to think about the connection between their goals and their daily habits. 

Girls can stay on course toward their goals by forming healthy habits on a daily basis. Habits, such as brushing your teeth every morning, are actions that come naturally and thoughtlessly. When you intentionally create habits that correspond to your goals, you are more likely to stay accountable. Goal-oriented habits might include things such as doing homework at a specific time, updating your planner after class, or stretching before practice.

Below are 7 steps to help you form healthy habits: 

1. Know your habits.

Be aware of the things you need to do every day. Sit and jot down the habits you want to form, such as “do homework right after school” or “read for thirty minutes before bed.” When you identify the things you need to be doing, it makes it much easier to stay focused on them. 

2. Write down your habits.

Write down the habits you are trying to form. Post your list in a place like a mirror or your desk where you will see it every day. This simple step can help you remember what you need to be doing to keep on track. 

3. Remember your goals.

It can also be helpful to either write your goals visibly or mentally to remind yourself of those goals in relation to your habits. Knowing that your habits help to keep you on the path to realizing your big goals can also help you stick with your plan. This is especially critical when you lose the motivation to continue.

4. Be consistent.

Each time you practice a habit, you reinforce patterns in your brain. When you reinforce those patterns each day, they become the natural and thoughtless habit you want. However, each time you decide to skip practicing a habit or put it off, you prolong the amount of time it will take to form the habit making it harder to hold yourself accountable in the future.

5. Start small.

Consistency is key to forming a healthy habit. But start small. Avoid making a lot of changes all at once. Start with just one, simple habit. Once that habit becomes a natural part of your routine, incorporate something else. This will make it easier to commit and be consistent.

6. Be patient.

According to psychologists, it takes 66 days to form a new habit. However, the time required to create healthy habits can be difficult. When you form a new habit, you create and reinforce patterns in your brain. Those patterns don't fully formed for a period of approximately 66 days. Although new patterns will start to feel natural as time passes, you will have to make a conscious effort to stick to your habits throughout the period of formation.

7. Reward yourself.

Your healthy habits will bring about long-term rewards like an A in a class or improvements on the field. However, they most likely will not bring about short-term rewards. Doing an extra workout or spending extra time on your math homework do not activate the reward centers of your brain immediately. Make sure you take the time to reinforce those habits by rewarding yourself. Listen to your favorite artist after you finish your assignments or eat a yummy snack after a good workout. This will create positive associations between the brain and those healthy habits. And, the habits get easier over time.

Once you form healthy habits, you will find it easier to stay focused on your goals. Without even thinking about it, you will make daily progress towards the goals. It may be challenging, but we know you are capable of anything you set out to do.

Take some time today to consider the healthy habits you need to developed in order to accomplish your big goals.

The Benefits of Effective Goal Setting

Know Where You’re Going. 

The road to success starts with a destination. By setting goals, you’ll give your actions purpose to ensure you’re always moving in the right direction.

This is one of the principles we live and play by here at Play Like a Girl. We encourage girls in our programs to dream big and envision their limitless potential. More importantly, we teach them how to travel well by planning some dreamy stops along the way.

Girls tend to experience big declines in academic motivation and achievement just as they enter middle school. One of the best ways to combat these declines and help girls maintain their motivation is through effective goal setting.

While setting goals for yourself is important, it is even more important to ensure that you set SMART goals. What is a SMART goal? We absolutely love that question around here. In fact, we spend an entire session in summer camp with fifth and sixth graders on setting SMART goals. Yep, that's right: It's never too early to get SMART about your goals.

SMART is an acronym that you can use to guide your goal setting. Its criteria are commonly attributed to Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives concept. The first known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.

Since then, Professor Robert S. Rubin (Saint Louis University) wrote about the SMART concept in an article for The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. He stated that SMART has come to mean different things to different people, as illustrated below in our definition of SMART goals.

To make your goals clear and reachable, we believe that each goal should be:
  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Professor Rubin also notes that the definition of the SMART acronym may need updating to reflect the importance of efficacy and feedback. Toward this end, some authors have expanded it to SMARTER which includes extra focus areas such as Evaluated and Reviewed.

We believe that SMART goals align with your personal values, are quantifiable, and can be achieved through a realistic plan of action. For example, one of our program graduates, Hannah, loves art and fashion. When she entered high school, she was particularly savvy about selecting all the right courses to get closer to her goal of majoring in fashion design as a college student.

Hannah's first instinct was not to drop all of her advanced math and science subjects to take up textiles and design. She knew that would be a bad strategy. She understood that the future of fashion requires skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) due to rapid advances in several critical areas of technology.

Hannah also had her own pretty unique blend of interests in business, science, art and technology that would bode well for her focus on fashion. Hannah set SMART goals to guide her achievement in classes that aligned with her personal values and commitment to working hard and sticking to her goals as she progressed through high school. Ultimately, she succeeded in achieving her dream and will be majoring in business and fashion design at North Carolina A&T University this fall.

How did setting SMART goals help Hannah? Effective goal setting results in increases in all of these areas: 
  1. Mindset. Effective goal setting fosters a growth mindset. If goals are well structured and include a support plan, girls can see how achievable their dreams are. This encourages confidence that skills can be developed and all the benefits that accompany that belief.
  2. Self-Efficacy. Goals set with the proper structure and support systems help girls develop confidence in their skills and abilities. They also help instill a greater sense of achievement. Achieving benchmarks towards a larger goal activates the reward center of the brain, helping girls feel accomplished.
  3. Organization. Planning and structuring goals helps girls develop organizational skills. The area of the brain used to consider long term goals and the steps necessary to achieve them is the same area that handles all planning and organizational tasks. Therefore, goal-setting is healthy practice for organization in all areas of life.
  4. Relationships. Healthy goals push girls to look up to more accomplished people as a source of inspiration and accountability. When you have your own goals, you are less likely to feel jealous of or competitive with other successful people. Therefore, healthy goals foster positive.
  5. Overall Happiness. Strong goals and big dreams for the future help girls feel productive in their daily tasks. It fosters optimism for the future and brings about mental health benefits as well as more positive mood overall.

We know that you will grow up to be empowered, successful women. That's why we encourage you--and all girls--to take the time to consider your values and set goals that get results.

We’d love to hear from you! Let us know how you’re setting goals and dreaming big. Leave a comment below.

Office Hours with Beth DeBauche

Beth DeBauche


Ohio Valley Conference


 "Each one of us is given this amazing journey of life. It is up to us to be open to what is in store. Some of which we can control, some of which we cannot. We need to just believe and let go as our precious story unfolds." - Angela Carone

Beth DeBauche is an athletics administrator with a joyful heart. She serves student-athletes as they learn lessons about their true potential through intercollegiate athletics. She lives by the mantra from Adam Hamilton that 'a grateful heart recognizes that all of life is a gift.'


5 Things She Can't Live Without
Running Shoes: so that I can to exercise my body and mind and explore the world around me

A Rosary: to continually remind me that God is with me

My passport: so that I can travel the world, and when I am not, still dream of great adventures

My phone: so that those dear to me are always within reach

A key to home: so that I can remember there is a place where I am unconditionally loved

Elevating Women's Sports in the Media

Participation in sport helps middle school girls maintain confidence, promotes physical fitness, has mental health benefits, and much more. For this reason, Play Like a Girl is committed to helping girls stay in sport and reach their full potential.

By the age of 14, girls drop out of sport at twice the rate of boys.

Part of the reason for this disparity is the lack representation of females in sport media. Only 4% of sports media coverage features women. The failure of mainstream media to highlight more female athletes is a large contributing factor in girls’ declining participation past middle school.

By the time middle school ends, the lack of exposure to female athletes, compared to male athletes, takes a toll. This results in the declining sports participation among girls. Yet, girls benefit psychologically from exposure to successful female athletes. Girls demonstrate increases in motivation, confidence, and levels of overall happiness when exposed to female role models. 

Former Stanford University Soccer Player Haley Rosen is looking to increase female representation within sports coverage with her new website and brand Just Women’s Sports.

Haley is teaming up with other elite female athletes including Hilary Knight, Kerri Walsh Jennnigs, Kelley O’Hara, and others to offer a more comprehensive representation of women in sport media. 

Just Women’s Sports is hoping to “change how women’s sports are covered. No more pink and glitter. No more ‘give us a twirl.’ Just sports.” The initiative strives to spotlight the aspects of female sport that traditional media lacks. These aspects include women in nontraditional sports such as rugby and football. It also includes focus on the routines and training habits of female athletes.

Along with its website, Just Women’s Sports is putting out regular podcasts and newsletters. These feature exclusive interviews with female athletes and highlighting those who are really changing the game. The website also helps users easily find the schedules for women's professional sports and where to watch games. This is useful, as mainstream networks do not air most of them.

Just Women's Sports is one of many initiatives opening the door for increased participation and success among girls and women in sport.

 Elevating the platform, voices, and performance of empowering female athletes helps influence the next generation of women. Girls internalize what they see on the screen and in the media, so seeing more successful women in sports only reinforces the message that girls have a place on the field.

Check out Just Women's Sports at